Archive for the 'Arts & Letters' Category
Posted by Margaret on 11th December 2013 (All posts by Margaret)
AN IMPERIAL RESCRIPT
Now this is the tale of the Council the German Kaiser decreed,
To ease the strong of their burden, to help the weak in their need…
And the young King said: — “I have found it, the road to the rest ye seek:
The strong shall wait for the weary, the hale shall halt for the weak:
With the even tramp of an army where no man breaks from the line,
Ye shall march to peace and plenty in the bond of brotherhood — sign!”
And the men drew back from the paper, as a Yankee delegate spoke: –
“There’s a girl in Jersey City who works on the telephone;
We’re going to hitch our horses and dig for a house of our own,
With gas and water connections, and steam-heat through to the top;
And, W. Hohenzollern, I guess I shall work till I drop.”
And an English delegate thundered: — “The weak an’ the lame be blowed!
I’ve a berth in the Sou’-West workshops, a home in the Wandsworth Road;
And till the ‘sociation has footed my buryin’ bill,
I work for the kids an’ the missus. Pull up? I be damned if I will!”
And over the German benches the bearded whisper ran: –
“Lager, der girls und der dollars, dey makes or dey breaks a man.
If Schmitt haf collared der dollars, he collars der girl deremit;
But if Schmitt bust in der pizness, we collars der girl from Schmitt.”
Posted in Arts & Letters, Diversions, Economics & Finance | 4 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 4th December 2013 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
Late to the party on this one, since I dropped my newspaper subscription a couple of years ago, but one of the ladies of the Red Hat circle I belong to mentioned this to me last night at our monthly dinner out. She couldn’t quite recall his name, but outlined enough that I figured it out, and confirmed by routine googlectomy this morning. He was our own local Victor Davis Hanson; I never met him in person, but I had friends and associates who had. A fantastic historian,(and a military veteran as well, since he was of that era) but personally rather bland and plain-spoken. Two of his books, Lone Star and Comanches are on my desk shelf within reach, and I cannot recommend them highly enough.
T.R. Fehrenbach, who made history read like news.
Posted in Arts & Letters, History, Obits | 3 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 21st November 2013 (All posts by David Foster)
Just re-read Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native (outstanding) and watched the 1994 movie (pretty good.) The book, like much Victorian literature, was originally serialized in a magazine, in this case Belgravia: a Magazine of Fashion and Amusement.
I found the original illustrations that accompanied the serialization here. Inclusion of illustrations was apparently quite expensive in comparison with straight text, even after the efficiency improvements that went with higher print volumes, so they tended to be fairly scarce–only 12 of them for the whole serialized novel, in this case.
More about the book and the economics of Victorian publishing here…it is interesting that the high cost of book encouraged lending libraries to insist that books be published broken into multiple volumes, so that reader access to the book could be “timeshared,” resulting in a higher ratio of revenue to cost.
Hardy and the artist who did the illustrations (Arthur Hopkins) were able to collaborate only by mail, and Hardy was not thrilled with the first image of his main female protagonist, Eustacia…he was happier with the later versions of this character.
Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Britain, History, Media | 2 Comments »
Posted by Carl from Chicago on 22nd September 2013 (All posts by Carl from Chicago)
Historically art in the West exists and has monetary value because our country has wealth and buyers who want to collect it. Recently buyers in China have been on the rise, along with a corresponding value on what “they” would perceive as art (i.e., Ming vases, and a lot of modern Chinese artists, as well). This article describes their growth:
Chinese spending on art remains robust in 2013. That’s despite a dip in the market last fall and an economic slowdown that recently knocked the Asian nation off its perch as the art world’s biggest spender and back behind the former perennial leader, the United States.
In a broader sense, there is a question of what drives art, and why some situations with incredible pathos don’t receive the attention they deserve (or much attention at all). For instance there are 1 million children who have been displaced or made into refugees in Syria due to their ongoing civil war. Can you imagine the stories, paintings, movies and television that this story would drive in the West? While we watch “reality” shows about dancing and singing and our “serious” fare covers meth dealers in New Mexico, why aren’t the amazing stories of war (and sometimes redemption, or bitter relapse) grist for “art”?
As I follow the Congo wars and civil wars, I am also amazed by the dearth of real or fictionalized accounts of either the war itself or its impact on civilians. There is little even though the scale of suffering and conflict is so wide, and the participants so varied.
For instance, imagine yourself as a writer in Syria or in the Congo. You have all the grist for art all around you. And yet… no one cares, because it doesn’t matter (much) to those that buy and produce art of all types, since they are in the West or part of the growing contingent in Asia.
It is interesting to me because artists and liberal arts types often view commerce with distaste, and act as if the world would somehow be better if we all dropped our focus on money and attended a play or modern dance or something like that. They believe that there is a “choice” and they can pursue their dreams, even though their dreams are subsidized and provided for by the wealth that is generated by the world of business, and protected by our force of arms, which they also despise.
Without wealth and military power (or the cover of someone else’s military power, as much of Europe and Asia shield under the US umbrella), art itself is a tiny, meaningless cry in the night. There is no intrinsic “value” in art unless the culture can support and (often) export it. Countries can support their own culture, as France and Italy work hard to do, but this is also tied to their value in the tourism trade and linked to their economic value as “open air museums” since little is actually manufactured or driven from these countries anymore. French literature, which made large impressions in the past (Sartre, etc…) is effectively invisible in the US today, although we’d gladly go visit and tour and drink wine and partake in the fabulous views.
Another facet of this phenomenon is the growth in “blockbuster” films that are populated with aliens, comic book figures, or supernatural events. These movies sell around the world, while indie-type movies (or even movies with relationships) are relegated to third class citizenship. If it can’t be explained or viewed in a generic manner understandable across cultures, then it isn’t wanted by our major studios. Certainly the Oscars don’t agree with this model, as they continue to hand out awards to movies that 99.999% of the world wide movie population doesn’t see, while ignoring the giant comic-book based movies taking over the screens. The “artists” there are being subsidized by the money-making tent-pole films, although the studios are extremely profit focused and at some point they won’t be be throwing those artists crumbs anymore (after all, they have to pay for expensive mansions and lavish lifestyles and the “cloak” of artistic merit is only worth so much).
Cross posted at LITGM
Posted in Arts & Letters, Business, China, Economics & Finance | 7 Comments »
Posted by Lexington Green on 9th September 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Happily for this country, we received our jurisprudence from England in its highest vigour, and in its most cultivated state. The leading statesmen in the colonies, and especially the members of the bar, had the sagacity to perceive, and the courage and patriotism to assert, the indefeasible title of their countrymen to all the securities and blessings of the English common law. They had inherited its free and liberal spirit, and in almost every colony there were individual lawyers, equal in character, learning, and eloquence, to their brethren in the courts of the parent state. They were lawyers of the old school, who actually led on the American revolution. They were the daring patriots and intelligent statesmen who roused their countrymen to the duty of insisting on the exclusive right of self-taxation, and to all the other liberties and privileges of English subjects, resting on the basis of the common law, and the sacred stipulations of chartered contracts. It was the lawyers that guided the deliberations of the congress of 1774, and penned its admirable addresses, and stimulated their associates to unite with them in pouring forth their grievances and their exhausted patience, and their determined purpose, in the monumental act of independence.
An Address Delivered Before the Law Association of the City of New York, October 1, 1836, by The Hon. James Kent.
We had this to say about James Kent in America 3.0:
We ended up with a common American legal culture for reasons beyond the Constitution. In the early years of the country there was popular animosity toward anything English and some resistance to relying on the Common Law and English precedent. American lawyers and judges rejected this notion and created an American style of law that was continuous with England’s, though not the same. They managed to keep this system roughly consistent across the entire country by relying on legal treatises that were considered authoritative. The most important example was James Kent’s Commentaries on American Law, which went through many editions.
Chancellor Kent was one of the most important lawyers and legal thinkers in the history of the Anglosphere. America is an enormous free trade area where business can be transacted efficiently over 3.7 million square miles among 310 million, or more, Americans. We have a common legal culture which makes this possible in significant part due to the work of Chancellor Kent.
The lawyers never get any credit, though Ronald Coase appreciated what they contribute. The quote above shows that James Kent not only made a quiet, almost invisible contribution to founding our nation. He also understood and appreciated what the lawyers of the Founding generation gave us, precisely because they were thinking as lawyers and made a legal case for our independence, and preserved the legal culture we had inherited from Britain, the common law — though of course with American characteristics.
Posted in America 3.0, Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Biography, Book Notes, Law, Politics, Uncategorized, USA | 7 Comments »
Posted by Ralf Goergens on 8th September 2013 (All posts by Ralf Goergens)
From the ‘Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce’, Volume 6 some ‘Fantastic Fables’:
THE LASSOED BEAR
A Hunter who had lassoed a Bear was trying to disengage himself from the rope, but the slip-knot about his wrist would not yield, for the Bear was all the time pulling in the slack with his paws. In the midst of his trouble the Hunter saw a Showman passing by and managed to attract his attention.
“What will you give me,” he said, “for my Bear?”
“It will be some five or ten minutes,” said the Showman, “before I shall want a bear, and it looks to me as if prices would fall during that time. I think I’ll wait and watch the market.”
“The price of this animal,” the Hunter replied, “is down to bed-rock; you can have him for a cent a pound, spot cash, and I’ll throw in the next one that I lasso. But the purchaser must remove the goods from the premises forthwith, to make room for three man-eating tigers, a cat-headed gorilla and an armful of rattlesnakes.”
But the Showman passed on in maiden meditation, fancy free, and being joined soon afterward by the Bear, who was absently picking his teeth, it was inferred that they were not unacquainted.
FATHER AND SON
“My boy,” said an aged Father to his fiery and disobedient Son, “a hot temper is the soil of remorse. Promise me that when next you are angry you will count one hundred before you move or speak.”
No sooner had the Son promised than he received a stinging blow from the paternal walking-stick, and by the time he had counted to seventy-five had the unhappiness to see the old man jump into a waiting cab and whirl away.
MORAL PRINCIPLE AND MATERIAL INTEREST
A Moral Principle met a Material Interest on a bridge wide enough for but one.
“Down, you base thing!” thundered the Moral Principle, “and let me pass over you!”
The Material Interest merely looked in the other’s eyes without saying anything.
“Ah,” said the Moral Principle, hesitatingly, “let us draw lots to see which one of us shall retire till the other has crossed.”
The Material Interest maintained an unbroken silence and an unwavering stare.
“In order to avoid a conflict,” the Moral Principle resumed, somewhat uneasily, “I shall myself lie down and let you walk over me.”
Then the Material Interest found his tongue. “I don’t think you are very good walking,” he said. “I am a little particular about what I have underfoot. Suppose you get off into the water.”
It occurred that way.
Bierce’s contemporaries weren’t used to this kind of cynicism and sarcasm, so they gave him the moniker ‘The bitter Bierce‘.
Posted in Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Deep Thoughts, Diversions, History, Human Behavior, Humor, USA | 2 Comments »
Posted by Lexington Green on 27th August 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
The Chief, the Quartermaster, the Adjutant-General, know well enough what the strength of the army is, and can map out to a quarter of a mile where it lies; but to the casual and ignorant spectator all this is mystery. The vastness of the area over which the armed host is spread, confounds him. He is unable to realise the fact of thousands being present when scattered around him; he only sees a few groups of white tents widely separated. And as it is in a camp, so, I apprehend, it is in a battle. When the great Duke of Wellington was asked by a lady at a ball to describe Waterloo, he pointed to the brilliant pageant which was running its course before them, and asked her if she thought she could describe all that was going on in that ball-room. If it be ever my lot to be present at a battle—although of wars and its alarms I have had enough by this time—I shall have but little to say, I fancy, about the manoeuvres of great bodies of men, desperate charges, skilful flank movements, and so forth. Such graphic narratives are best written at home, years after the event, with the general’s despatches and a good map before one. If ever I were called upon to send home an account of a sanguinary engagement between two great armies, it would most probably—if the account were candid and conscientious—be confined to mentioning that, standing somewhere under a tree, I could make out, through a race-glass, that something like an Irish row appeared to be going on in a field a long way off; and that riding away, rather in a hurry, I met many carts full of men that were wounded, and were crying out, for God’s sake, for water; and that I saw many ditches full of men that could cry no more, for the reason that they were dead.
George Augustus Sala, My Diary in America in the Midst of War, Vol. 1 (1865)
Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Military Affairs, Quotations, USA | 5 Comments »
Posted by Ralf Goergens on 25th August 2013 (All posts by Ralf Goergens)
Ivan Aivazovsky (1817 – 1900) was in his time famous around the world, and deservedly so.
This picture is about the Battle of Navarino in 1827. There are others at the Wikipedia page on Aivazovsky and a lot more at Wikimedia Commons.
Posted in Arts & Letters, Military Affairs, Russia | 6 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 20th August 2013 (All posts by David Foster)
…and lots of other things, by the always-interesting Paul Graham. Excerpt:
People trying to be cool will find themselves at a disadvantage when collecting surprises. To be surprised is to be mistaken. And the essence of cool, as any fourteen year old could tell you, is nil admirari. When you’re mistaken, don’t dwell on it; just act like nothing’s wrong and maybe no one will notice.
One of the keys to coolness is to avoid situations where inexperience may make you look foolish. If you want to find surprises you should do the opposite. Study lots of different things, because some of the most interesting surprises are unexpected connections between different fields. For example, jam, bacon, pickles, and cheese, which are among the most pleasing of foods, were all originally intended as methods of preservation. And so were books and paintings.
Whatever you study, include history– but social and economic history, not political history. History seems to me so important that it’s misleading to treat it as a mere field of study. Another way to describe it is all the data we have so far.
Read the whole thing.
Posted in Arts & Letters, Blogging, History, Human Behavior, Lit Crit, Philosophy, Society | 4 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 23rd July 2013 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
I’ve put together some posts from my various archives … Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Advertising, Arts & Letters, Blegs, Blogging, Book Notes, Diversions, History | 6 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 13th July 2013 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
Apropos of nothing – although since the Zimmerman jury has begun deliberations, this selection might be seen as a comment – today I am thinking on a certain 19th century hymn. Which my mother always disliked since a certain pastor liked to bring it out, incessantly with regard to particularly mid-20th century political concerns. Yes, I was raised religious, in one of the more flintily intellectual Protestant religious traditions, and today I believe this particular hymn to be especially relevant, in light of David’s post about Saint Alexander of Munich. There are choices one makes – sometimes momentous ones, on the spur of an instant, which turn out to be the choices which define your life … and now and again, your death.
Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah,
Offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by for ever
‘Twixt that darkness and that light.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Christianity | 16 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 22nd June 2013 (All posts by David Foster)
(Originally posted in May 2009. A recent post by Captain Capitalism reminded me of my post about Mindless Verbal Taylorism…while searching for it, I came across this post, which indeed seems due for a rerun.)
Diana Senechal, guest-blogging at Joanne Jacobs, tells the following story:
I run two lunchtime literature clubs at my school. The fourth graders just finished reading A Little Princess. During our discussions, I encourage delving into the text and discussing it on its own terms. I am not a big fan of “accountable talk,” “making predictions,” “making connections,” and so forth when they assume precedence over the subject matter itself.
One student brought up the part where Sara spends her money on hot buns for a beggar girl. “She made a self-to-self connection,” the student said. I felt sorry that students are learning such ghastly terminology, however well meant. Why are students not encouraged to say, “She understood how the girl felt” or “She felt compassion for the girl”?
Why, indeed? It’s bad enough to impose verbiage like “self-to-self connection” on college students: to do it to a 4th grader is really unforgiveable. It adds nothing to understanding–indeed, it very likely interferes with the true understanding and appreciation of the story by creating an emotional distance.
Strange, awkward, and unnatural verbal formulations, used ritualistically and without contributing to understanding, are becoming increasingly common in our society: although this phenomenon is arguably at its worst in education, it is by no means limited to that field. These word and phrases are not similar to the traditional jargon of a profession or trade. “Self-to-self connections” is not the same kind of thing as “amp” or even “kanban.”
Mark Helprin, in an essay about art, writes about people who are so obsessed with their tools and techniques that they lose sight of the substance of the work:
Modernism is by necessity obsessed with form, much like a craftsman obsessed with his tools and materials. In my climbing days we used to call people like that “equipment weenies.” These days you can see it in fly-fishing, where not a few people go out once a year with $5,000-worth of equipment to catch (maybe) $5-worth of fish. What should have been the story of the man, the stream, and the fish becomes instead a romance between the man and his tools. In this century the same thing happened in art.
Athough Helprin is talking here about art, the same excessive focus on methodology is visible in other areas as well.
Who are the people who perpetrate and cling to these fake-erudite verbal formulations? I suspect that they are generally those who have an education which is extensive–in terms of total years spent in the classroom–but not deep.
Bruce Fleming, who teaches English at the U.S. Naval Academy, has some interesting thoughts on the teaching/misteaching of literature, which are highly relevant to this topic. Excerpt:
Literary study in the classroom nowadays offers views of the work of literature rather like the views of Mt. Fuji in Hokusai’s celebrated spring series on “100 Views of Mt. Fuji.” In each view, the mountain, while present, is frequently tiny and in a corner, viewed (in the most famous print) beyond the crest of a wave whose foam seems to make fingers at the edges, or (in another) through a hoop that a barrel-maker is shaping.
Those are not the front-and-center shots on a postcard. They foreground the angle of the mountain, its treatment, much the way a literature professor does with a funky viewpoint that got him or her tenure. Of course the postcard shot has its own point, but in a real sense it’s more neutral than the angled treatment. It doesn’t push our noses in its approach: It defers to the object it is depicting. We’re far more conscious of the treatment of Mt. Fuji in an artsy Hokusai print than we are in a postcard shot. And that means, we’re all but compelled to see the mountain the way it’s presented, rather than being able to work on our own presentation. That’s why literary studies is intrinsically coercive.
I think the blatherification of America is an important issue. It inhibits clear thought. It is harmful to the enjoyment of art and of literature. It is destructive of intelligent policy-making in both business and government.
What say you? Do you agree that blatherification is happening and that it matters? Thoughts on causes and possible countermeasures?
Original CB discussion thread here.
Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Management, USA | 21 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 19th June 2013 (All posts by David Foster)
Several years ago, I was having lunch on the restaurant deck at my local airport. At the table next to me was a couple with a young girl, maybe about 4 years old.
“What makes the airplane fly?” asked the mother.
“Buh..buh,” said the little girl.
“That’s right,” the beaming mother completed the phrase, “Bernoulli’s principle!”
Now, I give this couple credit for taking the kid to the airport and trying to encourage cause-and-effect thinking about why things happen. But I really don’t think that teaching a 4-year-old to parrot “Bernoulli’s Principle” is the right way to do it. Far better, IMO, to say something like “When the airplane goes fast, that makes a wind under the wings, and that holds the airplane up.” This explanation would not pass muster with an aerodynamicist, but is far more useful, in terms of actual understanding, than giving the girl a keyword as explanation. To tell someone that Bernoulli’s Principle makes airplanes fly, when they don’t know what Bernoulli’s Principle IS, is no more useful than telling them that lift is generated by friendly invisible fairies under the wings. (And the fairies are much more charming.)
I was reminded of this little incident by a story in the Nov/Dec 2011 issue of Scientific American MIND. The headline says that “the trend in early education is to move from a play-based curriculum to a more school-like environment of directed learning.” An excerpt from the story:
On a perfect Southern California morning not long ago, a gaggle of children gathered in the backyard of a million-dollar home in an upscale Los Angeles neighborhood to celebrate the birthday of twin four-year-old girls…Most of the kids at the party attend the same preschool. The father of one child enrolled there, where tuition is $14,300 a year for half a day, was asked what he likes about it.
“I like that my daughter can tell me what kind of whale it is we see in a movie,” said the man, sporting a seersucker jacket. “They seem to be teaching things that other schools don’t.”
“You ask them what they did in school today,” chimed in another day, “and they’re like, ‘Oh, today we learned about pointillism.’ There’s a whole series on Picasso, a four-month project on Klimt.”
I submit that, for a four-year-old, it would be much, much more valuable to spend time doing their own painting and drawing than on learning to categorize well-known works according to the accepted categorization scheme. Having them also view the works of great artists is also fine, but should be done with an emphasis on seeing, not on name and category recognition.
Forty years ago, in The Age of Discontinuity, Peter Drucker commented on the role of the arts in education:
Today music appreciation is a respected academic discipline (even though it tends to be a deadly bore for the kids who have to memorize a lot of names when they have never heard the music). Playing an instrument or composing are considered, however, amateurish or “trade school.” This is not very bright, even if school is considered vocational preparation for the scribe. When school becomes general education for everyone, it is lunacy.
The art program in the preschool described above sounds a lot like the kind of music appreciation courses that Drucker was criticizing.
I’m afraid that American society is increasingly dominated by a kind of faux intellectualism that values “smartness” very highly (Smart cars! Smart diplomacy! Smart power!) but defines such smartness largely in terms of being able to fit everything in the world into approved categories.
Moliere, in The Imaginary Invalid, mocked a group of physicians whose “explanation” of the effects of opium was that the drug induced sleep because it contained “dormative powers.” There is still plenty of this kind of “thinking” going on today.
Posted in Arts & Letters, Aviation, Education, Human Behavior, Philosophy | 12 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 6th May 2013 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
(An archive post from … umm, a bit ago. I am putting together an eBook of my own posts about the military, and thought that the Boyz and fans might find this reminiscence of interest.)
Our local public radio station (which full disclosure impels me to mention that I was employed by their 24-hour classical sister station on a part-time basis until about May, 2008 although now I am so pissed at their general drift that I coldheartedly refuse to support them in their current pledge drive) aired a special some time ago ago about “border radio”— that is, a collection of radio outlets located just over the Mexican border which during the 1950ies and 1960ies— joyfully free of FCC restrictions on power restrictions, or indeed any other kind of restriction— blasted the very latest rock, and the most daring DJ commentary, on stations so high-powered they could be heard all the way into the deep mid-West and probably on peoples’ fillings as well. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Arts & Letters, Customer Service, History, Media | 12 Comments »
Posted by Ginny on 7th April 2013 (All posts by Ginny)
I don’t know much about Bowdoin. This seems, unfortunately, to be expected. I like the donor’s response – the president’s petty grandstanding is an overreach that motivates. Smugness enrages.
Today we skim over Longfellow, but once readers looked forward to his next narrative poem as an event. Longfellow also took academia and his languages seriously – developing a modern language program at Bowdoin; Harvard then drew him away to develop a similar program for them and he did. As we read a poem or two, I mention his Morituri Salutamus. Longfellow’s theme is similar but he hasn’t the power of Tennyson’s Ulysses. However this occasional poem is personal; his classmates, the classes of 1824 and 1825, at Bowdoin were some of his closest friends all his life. While he was the most popular American poet, a classmate and friend was Hawthorne. The novelist also remained intensely grateful and loyal to Franklin Pierce; a friendship begun at Bowdoin lasted until Hawthorne’s death. A fourth gained his fame more indirectly: Calvin Stowe’s interest in theology was shared with the famous Beecher family; his wife became a novelist with the broad audience Longfellow found. Clearly all were shaped by those years at Bowdoin.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Internet, Lit Crit | 20 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 31st March 2013 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
(This piece was part of a much longer essay about life in Greece when I was stationed at Hellenikon AB in the early 1980s. I posted it originally on The Daily Brief, and also rewrote much later to include in a collection of pieces about travel, people and history for Kindle.)
Christmas in Greece barely rates, in intensity it falls somewhere between Arbor Day or Valentines’ Day in the United States: A holiday for sure, but nothing much to make an enormous fuss over, and not for more than a day or two. But Greek Orthodox Easter, in Greece – now that is a major, major holiday. The devout enter into increasingly rigorous fasts during Lent, businesses and government offices for a couple of weeks, everyone goes to their home village, an elaborate feast is prepared for Easter Sunday, the bakeries prepare a special circular pastry adorned with red-dyed eggs, everyone gets new clothes, spring is coming after a soggy, miserable winter never pictured in the tourist brochures. Oh, it’s a major holiday blowout, all right. From Thursday of Holy Week on, AFRTS-Radio conforms to local custom, of only airing increasingly somber music. By Good Friday and Saturday, we are down to gloomy classical pieces, while outside the base, the streets are nearly deserted, traffic down to a trickle and all the shops and storefronts with their iron shutters and grilles drawn down.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Europe, History, Holidays, Personal Narrative, Recipes, Religion | 3 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 15th March 2013 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
Among the recipes in the box is one for dandelion wine.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Arts & Letters, Miscellaneous, Photos | 7 Comments »
Posted by Lexington Green on 14th March 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
It is only after an unknown number of unrecorded labors, after a host of noble hearts have succumbed in discouragement, convinced that their cause is lost; it is only then that the cause triumphs.
Guizot is an under-appreciated writer, a Classical Liberal of the French school, a truly embattled group who struggled against long odds. In the new book by James C. Bennett and Michael J. Lotus, America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century-Why America’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come, we cite to Guizot’s General History of Civilization in Europe (1828), which is a brilliant book. I also hope to read his The History of the Origins of Representative Government in Europe (1861).
Cross-posted at America 3.0.
Posted in America 3.0, Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, France, History, Politics, Quotations, Tea Party | 4 Comments »
Posted by Lexington Green on 12th March 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
[B]y a singular chance, the expansion of that small society from Elizabethan times onward became increasingly identified with the central movement in the history of the modern world. No mere book can hope to do justice to the theme: it is written in the lives of men, in their work and arts, in the creations of their minds, in science and industry, in the busy tracks of the ocean, upon the landscape and on the face of the outer world. It was an extraordinary, an unimaginable, fate that befell the island people. Wherever we look in the world, or in modern history, we come upon evidence of the contribution they have made. Whether it is at sea, in the arts of navigation or maritime warfare from Drake to Nelson to our own time; whether it is in voyages of discovery from the Cabots to Cook and Scott of the Antarctic, in methods of planting and colonisation from Humphrey Gilbert and Ralegh, Captain John Smith and the founders of New England to Gibbon Wakefield and Cecil Rhodes; or in industry, trade, finance; whether it is in the experience of self-government, laid open for all to see, or in the essential traditions of the free world — personal freedom for the citizen, liberty of opinion and speech, the sanctity of individual life (the arcana of civilized society); or in the example of an instinctive and generalised morality of common sense and toleration, with its precious message of individual responsibility; whether it is in the gradual unfolding of the resources of industrial and mechanical power (the basis of modern industrial civilisation, worked out in this island), with its subsequent developments in atomic energy and in the air; or in the unceasing proliferation of its genius at once for literature and science — the experience of the island people has been more and more closely bound up with the essential achievements of the modern world, the most significant and certainly the most fruitful movements of the human spirit in the modern age.
A.L. Rowse, The Expansion of Elizabethan England (1955).
In our upcoming book, America 3.0, Jim Bennett and I trace the roots of American freedom and prosperity back through British and English history to the conquest of the island by Angles, Saxons and Jutes fifteen centuries ago. But our focus is on America.
The quote from A.L. Rowse sketches a much larger theme which our (already large) book could not contain: the English impact on the entire modern world. A book on this subject may yet appear from Jim Bennett’s hand, and it will be the Big Book, which we have discussed for years, a history of the entire Anglosphere from its oldest Indo-European roots down to today and outward into the future.
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Posted in America 3.0, Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, History, Society, USA | 4 Comments »
Posted by Lexington Green on 5th March 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
These findings are consistent with the claims that Jim Bennett and I make in our upcoming book America 3.0.
Americans stand out relative to Westerners on phenomena that are associated with independent self‐concepts and individualism. A number of analyses, using a diverse range of methods, reveal that Americans are, on average, the most individualistic people in the world (e.g., Hofstede, 1980; Lipset, 1996; Morling & Lamoreaux, 2008; Oyserman et al., 2002). The observation that the U.S. is especially individualistic is not new, and dates at least as far back as Toqueville (1835). The unusually individualistic nature of Americans may be caused by, or reflect, an ideology that particularly stresses the importance of freedom and self‐sufficiency, as well as various practices in education and child‐rearing that may help to inculcate this sense of autonomy. American parents, for example, were the only ones in a survey of 100 societies who created a separate room for their baby to sleep (Burton & Whiting, 1961; also see Lewis, 1995), reflecting that from the time they are born, Americans are raised in an environment that emphasizes their independence (on unusual nature of American childrearing, see Lancy, 2009; Rogoff, 2003).
The extreme individualism of Americans is evident on many demographic and political measures. In American Exceptionalism, sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset (1996) documents a long list of the ways that Americans are unique in the Western world. At the time of Lipset’s surveys, compared with other Western industrialized societies, Americans were found to be the most patriotic, litigious, philanthropic, and populist (they have the most positions for elections and the most frequent elections, although they have among the lowest voter turnout rates). They were also among the most optimistic, and the least class-conscious. They were the most churchgoing in Protestantism, and the most fundamentalist in Christendom, and were more likely than others from Western industrialized countries to see the world in absolute moral terms. In contrast to other large Western industrialized societies, the United States had the highest crime rate, the longest working hours, the highest divorce rate, the highest rate of volunteerism, the highest percentage of citizens with a post-secondary education, the highest productivity rate, the highest GDP, the highest poverty rate, and the highest income-inequality rate; and Americans were the least supportive of various governmental interventions. The United States is the only industrialized society that never had a viable socialist movement; it was the last country to get a national pension plan, unemployment insurance, and accident insurance; and, at the time of writing, remain the only industrialized nation that does not have a general allowance for families or a national health insurance plan. In sum, there is some reason to suspect that Americans might be different from other Westerners, as de Tocqueville noted.
Joseph Henrich, Steven J. Heine and Ara Norenzayan, “The Weirdest People in the World?,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences (2010) 33, 61-135.
Cross-posted at America 3.0
Posted in America 3.0, Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, USA | 11 Comments »
Posted by Lexington Green on 25th February 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Very closely are noble issues bound up with material ones. Nothing could be more grossly material than the refusal to pay taxes, and the honest historian who comes to examine these occasional epic refusals will find often that the tax was reasonable and the refusal, on material grounds, absurd. Yet the refusal to pay taxes is one of the sacraments of history, the outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace, the symbol of a resurgent spirit among an oppressed people, the assertion of the rights of man, the voice of liberty defying the dictates of authority.
William the Silent: William of Nassau, Prince of Orange, 1533-1584 by C.V. Wedgwood
Posted in Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, History, Taxes, Tea Party, Video | 16 Comments »
Posted by Lexington Green on 23rd February 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
3D printers, driverless cars, nanotech: the 21st century looks to be even more different from the 20th century than the 20th was from the 19th. American politics and institutions are going to change much more rapidly than most pundits and politicos can yet understand.
Walter Russell Mead
This quote is uncannily congruent the argument of the forthcoming book, America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century – Why America’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come by Jim Bennett and me.
Walter Russell Mead’s wicked good blog Via Meadia has many posts which track closely with the arguments Jim and I are making. I am sure all this great material will end up in a forthcoming book by him about the demise of the Blue Model (a term he invented) and what is coming next.
I am going to shamelessly recycle this: “the 21st century looks to be even more different from the 20th century than the 20th was from the 19th.” This is a very pithy observation which captures our vision of America 3.0, which of course we cannot really predict with a lot of detail. As Bruce Sterling wisely said:
Nothing obsolesces like “the future.” Nothing burns out quite so quickly as a high tech avant-garde. Technology doesn’t glide into the streamlined world of tomorrow. It jolts and limps, all crutches and stilts, just like its ancient patron, the god Hephaestos.
Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next Fifty Years.
Still, we have to imagine the future, not so we will be correct then, but so we can plan, think, and act now. We also have to imagine the future so we don’t think today’s setbacks, as serious as they may be, are the apocalypse. Everyone reading this will be dead in 100 years, but our descendants will be alive, and they will have in part what we passed on to them. They will see us as living in a patch of history with a label and summed up in a few paragraphs. This is a phase, as is every other period in history.
I will confidently predict, as Mead does, that the pace of change will be faster than ever before. Moore’s Law will be in force for a long time to come, I hope.
What is particularly cool about the Mead quote, almost suggesting some kind of brain-meld via the astral plane between Mead and Bennett-Lotus, is the reference to “3D printers, driverless cars, nanotech” — each of these figure prominently in our first Chapter, America in 2040. One muse, three authors?
If you have not read Mead’s two excellent books Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World and God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World you must do so. Get them soon, so you are done before our book comes out May 28, 2013.
Cross-posted on America 3.0.
Posted in America 3.0, Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Blogging, Book Notes, Predictions, USA | 30 Comments »
Posted by Lexington Green on 11th February 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Looking along to our right we saw a brave sight, the bravest possible — a body of cavalry charging. It was none other than the renowned Cavalry of the Guides, which by a wonderful effort had crossed the seemingly impassable nullah, and was now falling with dauntless fury on ten times their numbers of the enemy. They whirled past us, and we, cheering like mad, dashed after them.
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Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Britain, History, Islam, Military Affairs | 4 Comments »